We had originally booked a business class flight to Tokyo on All Nippon Airways and I was perfectly happy with this option at the beginning. I still think I would have been perfectly happy if it had remained that way. But instead I saw a post by Points, Miles & Martinis about the easiest route to book Lufthansa First Class on – Frankfurt to Osaka. This was conveniently timed with a long discussion about how much time we should spend in Tokyo versus possibly splitting up part of the trip and seeing Osaka/Kyoto.
This will hopefully be relevant to some with the pending United devaluation that will occur in February. If you have United miles you are looking to burn before award rates increase February 1st, 2014 – I HIGHLY recommend Lufthansa first class. Especially as some of the partner (non-United) award flight rates are even doubling!
For those who haven’t heard of Lufthansa First Class – it’s one of those “holy grail” type awards. First class space is only released to partners (like United) within two weeks of the flight. So it’s therefore somewhat iffy, and some routes are basically impossible. What makes it so great? For one, try having your own seat AND a bed on a plane. This is available on Lufthansa’s new first class on the 747-400. Not enough? How about amazing service, pajamas, a Rimowa amenity kit and great drinks and food? Still not enough? How about we pair it with a layover in the Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal (FCT). In the FCT there is an open bar, restaurant, shower/baths, massage chairs, a cigar lounge…oh, and when you’re done they will drive you to your plane in a Porsche or Mercedes.
A one-way business class flight to Japan on a United award (pre-devaluation) was 60,000 miles. A first class flight is only 67,500 miles. That’s a tiny increase for a large difference in service. I decided to try for it and kept an eye on open Frankfurt – Osaka space.
Note: I was able to check out Royal Caribbean’s upgrades on Vision of the Seas during a free one night preview cruise with Travel Massive. If you feel that would influence my writing please stop reading now (but my opinions are my own).
I caught a tweet from Travel Massive for South Florida travel bloggers to come check out Royal Caribbean’s upgrades on Vision of the Seas. It was a one night cruise from the Port of Miami. We boarded late afternoon on a Sunday and were given the option to check out the various stateroom and restaurant upgrades after checking out our own stateroom.
Let me preface this by saying I have cruised a bit in the past. I have been on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney cruise lines on various trips. Each has their advantages, but I usually prefer Royal Caribbean due to cost and service. Carnival I did not find quite as nice, and while Disney was very very nice it was at a much higher price. So I was a fan of Royal Caribbean going into this event.
The room was very spacious, and had a nice seating area. It also had a large (for a cruise ship stateroom) bathroom with a tub.
While the tub was nice (it is usually a tiny shower stall in the rooms I book) it was NOT made for people over 6 feet tall. I am 6ft and my head was on the ceiling, as the bottom of the tub is raised from the floor. It’s something to take into account, especially for 6’3 guys! The balcony was very nice. I usually don’t spring for upgrades on short cruises, so it was a first for me.
As we were coming up quick on the Japan trip and my stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I decided to go for the Hyatt Diamond Challenge (see here for information on how to apply for the Diamond Challenge). The Hyatt Diamond Challenge is a one time chance to match an existing status (such as my Hilton Gold status from my Citibank Hilton Reserve) to Hyatt Diamond status. You are granted Hyatt Diamond and have to complete 12 stays in 60 days in order to keep it.
I debated for a long time whether or not I should do the Diamond challenge now, and whether I should actually try to complete it. I wanted to do it in order to experience the in room breakfast and the cocktail hour at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. The cocktails are served in the New York Bar which normally has a 2,200 Japanese Yen cover charge – think Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. My original plan was to do the Diamond Challenge and then apply for the Hyatt credit card. Previously if you were a Diamond member when applying you received two free nights in a suite instead of just two free nights. That offer has gone away. Therefore I can now apply for the card at any point to get Platinum status and two free nights, but they won’t be in a suite. This isn’t a huge loss as I was planning on redeeming those nights next year at the Park Hyatt Sydney – which doesn’t allow the suite awards anyways.
I decided ultimately that the benefits at Park Hyatt Tokyo were worth it. With all the recent devaluations, it seems like there is no reason to postpone at this point and the opportunity could be gone if I tried later. I applied for the Diamond Challenge in the same way my friend had a few months ago. I included a screenshot of my Hilton status and current number of stays, and quickly received a response. The response stated the terms and asked me to reply to accept the challenge. I did, and am now a Hyatt Diamond member. Since I applied mid-October, I will actually get to keep the Diamond status until the end of December.
I debated about mattress running (finding cheap hotels to get stay credits) to maintain the Diamond status. Diamond status will get you upgrades, breakfast, wifi, etc. The numbers didn’t work out based on my planned Hyatt stays. It makes more sense for me to pay for breakfast and apply for the Hyatt card to get Platinum status (and therefore free wifi).
But I decided while I was in Atlanta to tryout my new Diamond status with a one night stay at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. There was a “spooky special” running, and I got a room for $79 including two free cocktails upon arrival and half off valet parking. When you apply for the Diamond Challenge, you are given four suite upgrade certificates that are valid on paid stays. I decided to use one and upgrade us to a suite.